Coronavirus: Metropolitan Opera cancels season, stops pay for orchestra, chorus and stagehands after March

Although the Met Opera's schedule was originally supposed to end on May 9, this season-ending loss is already prompting pay cuts and an emergency fundraiser

                            Coronavirus: Metropolitan Opera cancels season, stops pay for orchestra, chorus and stagehands after March
(Getty Images)

The Metropolitan Opera, which is one of the most beloved and largest performing arts organizations in the United States, announced on Thursday, March 19, that it would have to cancel the rest of its season due to the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic.

The Met Opera also announced that it was launching an emergency fund-raising effort in order to cover their season-ending losses, which is anticipated to cross the 60 million dollar mark, reports Billboard. Just last week, the Met Opera had revealed that they had temporarily halted their performances till March 31, as theaters and concert halls around the world shut shop in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. But after the Centers for Disease Control announced on Monday, March 16, that gatherings of more than 50 people should be avoided for at least another two months, many organizations decided to extend their short-term breaks.

Audiences fill the theater during "The Opera House" screening at the 55th New York Film Festival at The Metropolitan Opera House on October 1, 2017 in New York City. (Getty Images)

The decision to prematurely cancel the Met Opera season comes a day after the Metropolitan Museum of Art said that it would remain closed until July - the enforced layoff is expected to chalk up losses of over $100 million in unearned revenue. The Metropolitan Opera company’s orchestra, chorus and stagehands will not be paid after March, though they will still have their health benefits intact.

“We’re doing the best we can under a horrendously difficult situation,” Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera revealed. “As far as our union employees are concerned, we are trying to do the best we can by them, given the financial constraints that we have.”

Although the Met Opera's season was originally slated to end on May 9, Mr. Gelb said that the decision to scupper the remainder of their dates would net the company a shortfall of approximately $50 million to $60 million. The Met Opera promptly announced an emergency fundraising effort in order to raise that amount, with board members initially pledging around $11 million collectively.

Opera fans watch "Madama Butterfly" on an outdoor television screen outside the Metropolitan Opera in 2006 (Getty Images)

 Gelb added that the company's top brass would also be taking pay cuts in order to combat the Met Opera's losses - Gelb himself will not be drawing a salary until their normal operations resume. Additionally, senior management will be taking a pay cut of 25 to 50 percent, while non-senior administrative staff making more than $125,000 a year will have their salaries capped by 10 percent. However, there are no planned salary cuts for employees making less than $125,000 annually and no plans to terminate administrative staff contracts either. “We need an administrative staff to keep the institution running without performances,” Gelb admitted. “The business of the Met has to go on.” For now, like the rest of the world, we'll have to wait and see how this pandemic pans out. 

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